The Review with William Chak |Blue and White Vase and Pair of Blue Glazed with Golden Colour Vases

Though the year 2017 is coming to its end, Poly Xiamen is still gearing up for its autumn auction scheduled in early January 2018. The auction house has prepared an amazing line-up for its sale of important Chinese works of art. To give an in-depth review of two of the sale highlights, the Value has invited veteran ceramics expert William Chak to comment on a Pair of Blue Glazed with Golden Colour Vases, as well as a Blue and White Vase. 

A Pair of Blue Glazed with Golden Colour Vases
Jiaqing Period, Qing Dynasty

Lot no.: 936
Six-character Seal Mark of Jiaqing Period
Height: 28.5 cm

  • Alfred Morrison Collection, Fonthill Heirlooms No.519
  • Christie’s, London, Nov. 9 2004, Lot.51
  • Sungary International,Aug.20 2007, Lot.1609

Estimate: RMB 16,000,000 - 20,000,000

W: This pair of vases is like my old friend. I remember this pair of vases was offered at Christie’s London in 2004.

Q: What’s so special about this pair of vases?
W: In 2004, I commented on the vases, ‘Excellent painting and excellent gilding’. Why did I comment on the gilding? Gold is a low-temperature glaze and it is easily worn out by constant touching.

W (continue): Another fact to be noted, when we use a feather duster to dust them off, the static electricity created will separate the gold from vase’s surface. Also, the vase was completely matte when the gilding was first done. It was later polished by scraping the surface with an agate knife. The process has to be done with an agate knife, not any other tools.

Q: The shape of the vases seems very special. Can you tell us more about it?

W: I once commented that this vase has a unique shape. In general, garlic-head vases go with a rounder body. But this one is a cylindrical body. It is very unique, something I have never seen before.

W (continue): Take a look at its glaze, shape, turquoise glaze, guiding and painting. It suggests craftsmanship from the transition period from the late Qianlong to the early Jiaqing period. It is definitely made when Qianlong was acting as a retired emperor. For works from the mid or late Jiaqing period, the craftsmanship would not be as exquisite as the one we see here.

Q: Is it rare to have a pair of works well-preserved?

W: When it comes to collecting, having a pair of works is the ideal case. This rule also applies to bowl, plates and vases. In many cases, one of them is either lost or in poor condition, and hence only one piece from the pair is kept. So it is rare that these two vases are still intact in pair.

A Blue and White Vase
Yuan Dynasty

Lot no.: 927
Height: 42 cm

  • A Private Collection from Asian

Estimate: RMB 8,000,000 - 12,000,000

W: This is a blue and white meiping vase. It is a classic example of blue-and-white in the Yuan dynasty. Blue-and-white in the Yuan dynasty was developed from an egg-white glaze. The blue and white pigment was imported from Middle East countries producing cobalt pigments. There was a suburb area called “Samarra” in today Baghdad. This Yuan blue-and-white was called “smalt” in early Ming dynasty.

W (continue): We usually find them in round plates or Yuhuchun vases. It is rare to see them in an enormous meiping vase like this one. As I recall, there are around five pieces like this so it is extremely rare.

Q: What’s so special about the painting on this vase?

W: It is a meiping vase painted with large peonies in Yuan blue-and-white. Firstly, it is well-preserved. It was painted in six layers and each layer was exquisitely done. It is impeccable. When I was an apprentice, my mentor often said, “It is like the painter was using his left hand to paint the leaves here.” Look at the brush strokes here. It seems that the leaves are drawn by the painter’s left hand. It is a trait of Yuan blue-and-white.

W (continue): Yuan blue-and-white contains a huge amount of iron. You can see the pottery is oxidized and corroded by the pigment.

Q: Are Yuan blue-and-white generally produced in the imperial kilns?
W: There was no imperial kiln for Yuan blue-and-white, except an office in Fuliang. This vase was probably owned by officials or nobles, but not any ordinary people.

Q: Any reasons why?

W: The Yuan government had strict regulations in producing ceramic though they also supported exporting blue and white porcelain. Wares like this were made for imperial use or as gifts for Middle East countries. Topkapı Palace in Turkey has the richest collection of Yuan blue-and-white.

W (continue): On the contrary, there aren’t many Yuan blue-and-white products in China currently, except a batch of works evacuated from more than a decade ago. I am honoured to have taken a close look at this rare treasure offered at the coming Poly Auction Xiamen.

Auction house: Poly Xiamen
Sale: Important Chinese Works of Art
Previewing dates: 2018/1/5 – 7
Venue: Swiss Grand Xiamen
Auction date: 2018/1/8